Universities and colleges voice their support for welcoming, open society in the wake of President Trump’s executive order to suspend immigration to the United States from seven predominantly Muslim countries.
Many Canadian universities and colleges have made statements in response to the executive order, expressing concern for the immediate 90-day suspension on immigration to the US from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. Universities Canada, an advocacy group for 97 Canadian universities, issued a statement on Sunday evening condemning the order. Many member universities have since issued statements supporting Universities Canada and echoing their concern.
“Canada’s universities are deeply concerned about a new executive order issued in the United States. . . The executive order restricting travel into the U.S. affects research partnerships, international studies, academic conference participation, field visits and in some cases family relationships of our university students, faculty and staff. The new order is having an impact on Canadian campuses and communities that is real, immediate and profound.” – Universities Canada
Universities and colleges across Canada have extensive internalisation programs to attract and retain international students. It is widely recognised that in addition to being talented and motivated, international students bring a different perspective and background to higher education classrooms that benefits all students. Moreover, Canadian universities and colleges attract faculty from around the world for the quality and reputation of research and teaching in the country. The more international a faculty, the more students benefit from a wide variety of expertise and context in their education.
Universities Reaffirm Commitment to Inclusion
Over the weekend, presidents and senior staff at many Canadian universities took to social media to express their support for their international community, and their concern over the executive order.
“The idea of targeting and restricting the travel of individuals on the basis of their nationality or birthplace is antithetical to everything we stand for as an institution and a country,” said University of Toronto president Meric Gertler. Approximately 17 percent of students at the University of Toronto are international students, and the university has extensive internalisation programs.
Memorial University of Newfoundland has waived application fees for students from the seven countries affected, and for students from the U.S. “Memorial University welcomes and supports students, faculty and researchers from all over the world who contribute knowledge and expertise locally, nationally and internationally. Our university community is stronger, more vibrant, innovative and progressive because of the diversity of the people who choose to engage in teaching, learning and research activities here,” reads a statement on their website.
“Brock University remains committed to welcoming individuals from around the world,” said Tom Dunk, Provost and Vice-President Academic at Brock University in Ontario. “Fostering an inclusive, safe, and accessible environment across the Brock community is at the heart of our core values of the University.”
University of British Columbia president Santa J. Ono quickly established a task force to determine how the university could help those affected. “UBC strongly affirms that it will continue to welcome students, faculty and staff from around the world, including those seeking refuge from violence and hardship . . . UBC’s academic strength and stature depends upon the freedom of our faculty, staff and students to travel abroad for purposes of scholarship and study and upon our ability to welcome the most talented individuals from around the world to our campuses. Actions that restrict this movement based on a person’s nationality or birthplace go against our values as a university,” Ono said.
Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, which currently hosts approximately 450 students and staff from countries affected by the ban, issued a statement declaring, “The United States government’s executive order imposing a 90-day ban on individuals from seven Muslim-majority countries visiting the U.S. has generated fear and anxiety on the part of many members of our community, and has implications that are real and disturbing . . . We must provide comfort and support to these individuals, and do everything in our power to reaffirm our commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion.”
Executive Order Affects International Community
In addition to causing potential travel disruptions for international students in Canada — who may need to transfer through American airports on their way to or from Canada — the ban also has an impact on academic activities for students, faculty, and staff. Academics working in Canada frequently collaborate with American institutions for conferences, lecture series, and research projects. The ban on immigration for citizens of certain majority-Muslim countries is expected to impact these activities directly.
American universities are advising students and staff from the seven countries affected by President Trump’s temporary ban on immigration not to leave the U.S., as many legal residents of the U.S. with citizenship of one of these seven countries may find themselves unable to re-enter the country. Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Ahmed Hussen, confirmed that the ban would not apply to Canadian dual citizens or permanent residents. Hussen stated his commitment to accommodating those travelers stranded in Canada, granting them temporary residency.